Sunday, August 23, 2015

Watching Birds

Watching Birds

Six months ago I set up a bird feeder on the fire escape behind my apartment. I put a small piece of paper next to the kitchen window, where I can spy on them and notate all the different species that have come to visit since. It's given me a chance to observe their olympic-worthy avian gymnastic abilities, which makes them such great weavers.  

Birds are the true sculptural masters. They use the wings, beaks, bellies, feet and even their own saliva to build these master pieces. But just like humans, the mastery of weaving doesn't come out of nowhere - they have to learn how to do it. This video is a true gem in showing how weaver birds build their nests. It not only shows the structural logic that is followed in building a nest (there are steps involved that lead from one stage to the next), but it also show the process of learning as the younger birds figure out how to make a nest. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

ArtLAB Residency

ArtLAB Residency
Mountain Lake Biological Station, Pembroke, Virginia
Summer 2015

I had the great fortune to spend 2 weeks as an artist in residence at the Mountain Lake Biological Station on top of Saltpond Mountain in the southern Appalachians in Virginia as part of the ArtLAB Residency program. The station is surrounded by incredible forestland with many interesting habitats for studies in field ecology. It sits right on the Continental Divide, right between the Atlantic and Mississippi drainage system. 

The ArtLAB Residency has been going now for three years. This year, the crew consisted of four other artists and five undergraduate art students from the University of Virginia. We had the great fortune of sharing the station and many meals with biologists from all over the country. A true gathering of curious minds. 

I decided to focus my time there building on a collaboration I am currently doing with Christian Gentry, a composer who uses found sounds to build compositions with.  Using his approach, but focusing on weather, I spend most of my time listening and creating sketched storyboards that track the sounds I was hearing.  This ended up in a series of drawings I am currently working on that track rain and wind movements across the station – based not on a meteorological instrument, but on my own ears and sense of direction.

The most important lesson I learned is how hard it is to summarize a sound into a visual mark. Working very quickly, I had to find a short hand system of marks to notate the direction, quality, resonance and pitch of the sounds I was hearing. The ear can pick up nuances and layers that the visual mark just can’t tab into. In that perhaps obvious realization lies the potential for many artistic explorations I am eager to embark on.

Mountain Labe Biological Station:
ArtLAB Residency:

My sleeping quarters

The studio

The weather station

Rain storm - July 12th, 8:01pm-8:05pm
Rain storm - July 12th, 8:06pm - 8:10pm
Wind movements - July 13, 11:43am-11:47am